Recently, it has come to light that Facebook had allowed a breach of data, this included the personal information and very intricate details of approximately 80 million Facebook users. How did this happen?
Back in 2013, a researcher who was at Cambridge University named Alexandr Kogan created a personality quiz app. The app was installed over 300,000 times, but due to the way Facebook handled app privacy and your data, the app was able to look into the full profiles of friends, and friends of friends, adding up to tens of millions of user profiles.
Now, in 2014 Facebook actually changed these rules to be way more secure, however the damage in this case was already done.
Skip ahead to around 2015, when the newspaper The Guardian did a bunch of investigative journalism and found that Kogan had not only accessed millions of Facebook user profiles, but was allegedly now sharing these 80 million profiles to a group called Cambridge Analytica, and this is where things get pretty crazy.
These 80 million users were apparently mostly from the USA, and Cambridge was then allegedly hired by the Trump campaign to profile over 80 million people to find out very specific and intricate ways to target them for the purposes of winning more votes. This was a huge breach of trust, and a total violation of the Facebook terms, causing Facebook to immediately ban Cambridge Analytica, but, again, the damage was already done.
Cambridge claims to now have deleted all the data, and is agreeing Facebook to bring in forensic auditors to confirm this is true.
The biggest takeaway from all of this is to realize that these platforms are only free because we, the users, ARE the product. Our pictures, posts, likes, or dislikes can and perhaps are being mined and sifted through, and these incredibly detailed profiles can be built based upon the findings. This will only become more of a concern as we enter to age of generalized artificial intelligence and big data.
The only light at the end of this dark tunnel is that Facebook has plugged this particular loophole several years ago, and now regulators are starting to investigate further into this matter.
In the end, remember to treat anything you post online as if you were fine with ANYONE reading it, because, in the end, they very well could.